Last week, I made my mind up for once to take advantage of the first Sunday of the month when Paris' museums offer a free entrance to all visitors. It was a particularly pleasant weekend with a legit summer vibe intact as the sun had agressively assured temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius. My destination was unsurprisingly located in Le Marais.
The Hôtel Salé, or The Salted Hotel, was built in the XVII century and is considered to be one of the finest historic houses in the district. The mansion has changed hands several times by sale or inheritance. The occupants have included the Embassy of the Republic of Venice (1671); in 1815, it became a school - Honoré de Balzac was among its students, before eventually being acquired by the City of Paris in 1964.
Once the Hotel Salé was set to be turned into the Museum of Picasso, a number of the painter's works were selected to become the dation Picasso. (In 1968, France introduced a law that permitted heirs to pay inheritance tax with works of art instead of money, as long as the art's considered an important contribution to the French cultural heritage. This is known as a dation.) The selection contained works by Picasso in all techniques and from all periods, and is especially rare in terms of its excellent collection of sculptures.
Picasso once said, I am the greatest collector of Picasso's in the world.
He had amassed an enormous collection of his own works by the time of his death in 1973, ranging from sketchbooks to finished masterpieces. The Musée Picasso boasts over 5,000 works of art by the paiter, including works on paper, ceramics, sculptures in wood and metal, and paintings.
I was particularly thrilled to see most of his earlier works which were done in more of an impressionist style, which I prefer compared to his cubism works. In addition, I was pleased to find some of Picasso's own personal art collection of works by other artists, including Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, Seurat and Matisse. Other items on display include photographs, manuscripts, newspaper clippings and photographs to provide additional contextual information.
Currently, the museum holds a temporary exhibition with some of Picasso's most famous paintings, including the Guernica, which normally reside in Madrid at the Reina Sofia museum.
As I got out of Picasso's museum, I took a short walk down the street before finding quite by chance a much needed shade in the courtyard of another museum - that of Cognacq-Jay. I'd been meaning to pay that house a visit too for quite some time and naturally, I leaped at the opportunity to see the famed residence.
The museum's collection was formed between 1900–1925 by Théodore-Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise Jay, founders of La Samaritaine department store. Upon his death, Cognacq gave the collection to the City of Paris, which in 1929 inaugurated the Musée Cognacq-Jay at 25 boulevard des Capucines, a building especially conceived for the purpose by the Cognacq couple, who wished to display the collection in the intimacy of a seemingly inhabited home, without the conventions of a museum. (Awesome!)
In 1990 however, the City, arguing that the Boulevard des Capucines wasn't part of a cultural circuit, sought the approval of the legal heirs - the owners of La Samaritaine, and, under silent disagreement of the Cognacq-Jay family, moved the collection to the ill-fitting XVI-century Hôtel Donon in the Marais, where the collection is displayed across 4 floors connected with authentic stone staircases.
The museum contains an exceptional collection of fine art and decorative items, about 1200 in total, with an emphasis on 18th century France, ranging from European and Chinese ceramics, jewels, and snuffboxes, to sculptures and paintings by Louis-Léopold Boilly, François Boucher, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Camille Corot, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Maurice Quentin de La Tour, Sir Thomas Lawrence, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and Jean-Antoine Watteau.
Apart from my obsession with art, I'm all about furniture - notably that in a Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI styles, and I'm happy to say I saw all that splendour exhibited in the tiny museum.